Reading Week has begun, my friends, and therefore, I am back.
Reading Week (for those unacquainted with the oddness of university life) is the week-long "study break" students tend to be given in February. They are not given such a break in the fall term. Go figure, really.
As usual, I shall be spending Reading Week marking midterms. However, as I shall also be spending it not teaching almost every morning, I am going to be able to get back to the comics...and what better day to return to the wonderful world of medieval comics blogging than "Seynt Valentynes day, / Whan every foul cometh there to chese his make" (as our friend Geoffrey Chaucer puts it)? I rather wish that Shoe had been love-themed today; I would have been able to make all sorts of sarcastic comments. Alas, today's Shoe seems to be about reducing the carbon footprint with chocolate. No, it doesn't make sense to me either.*
Now, I hate Valentine's Day. As far as I'm concerned, its only redeeming quality is the fact that it gave rise to Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls; otherwise, it can simply go hang. It does, however, produce some absolutely appalling comic strips. Today, we pay a visit to one of those strips.
The Beetle Bailey comic below is not really about Valentine's Day, but I doubt it is a coincidence that it features Killer, the Beetle Bailey character whose purpose in life seems to be to sleep with everything that moves. The necessity of getting 1) Killer to interact with a girl who is 2) not in the army while 3) Killer and his friends are engaged in Killer's second-favourite activity, beer-drinking, has led the cartoonist to set this strip in what appears to be a bar-slash-grocery-store. It is possible that we have here a very subtle Chaucer tribute;*** the jumbled setting may indicate that some sort of dream vision is occurring. I think it more likely that the cartoonist is a lazy ass, but you never do know.
The real medieval content appears with the mention of the word "chivalry" and the almost immediate undercutting of that word by Plato. Killer's "chivalrous" action, which he claims to undertake out of "duty and honor," is, as Plato notes, hollow; his seemingly courteous behaviour is simply a mask for the sexual impulses that are, in this strip, generally represented by the "wiggle" lines around Killer's hat. The hat's motion can almost always be read as indicating that Killer is in a state of physical arousal. Judging by the soldier's self-satisfied expression as he ushers the scantily-clad shopper out the door,**** this strip is no exception.
Today's Beetle Bailey thus encapsulates a common late medieval approach to chivalry, acknowledging the concept's surface ideal while revealing the darker motives that drive it. Actually, Chaucer takes this very same approach in The Parliament of Fowls. Nicely done, Beetle Bailey legacy hacks.
As an apology for my frequent absences this term, I here present to you, for the first (and most likely the last) time ever, a second comic. I include it mostly because though it has nothing to do with the be-cursed concept of be-cursed Valentine's Day, it continues the lovely Family Circus philosophical tradition with a thoughtful question***** that indicates how close the young Keanes are to achieving enlightenment.****** Billy has meditated on why guitar strings are not really strings; Jeffy has described the tragedy of earthly impermanence through the image of a lost spoon; now, Billy inquires as to how one spells "spell" (oh, the irony! The irony!). I am truly surprised that no enterprising blogger has yet produced The Zen Family Circus or The Philosophical Family Circus or something along those lines. There's a need, people.
P.S.: If you are enjoying Valentine's Day, good for you. If not, remember: tomorrow is Half-Price Chocolate Day. Hurrah indeed.
*In fact, it simply doesn't make sense. I advise you not to read it. By the time the Perfesser sticks the light bulb into his ice-cream cone,** your head will already have exploded.
**I am absolutely not making this up.
***Very, very subtle.
****Who shops in a tube dress and high heels? I mean, honestly.
*****Albeit one that has been appearing in comics and bad comedy routines since the dawn of freaking time.
******Or, at least, decent marks in spelling.